The Importance of Being Open for Business in Keeper Leagues (Fantasy Baseball)
In deeper keeper leagues and dynasty formats, much like in real leagues, there isn’t really an offseason. Sure, there’s a period of time from roughly October through March (depending on when the regular season starts in a given year) when players aren’t playing in fantasy-relevant games. The more casual gamers will take some time away from fantasy baseball to recharge their batteries after the long grind of a season, but staying on top of things the entire year can create edges for upgrading your team. The offseason is prime speculation season for gamers who are either looking to slightly tweak their roster or completely overhaul it. This piece will highlight things to consider during the offseason when making moves.
Don’t confuse this piece for a tool for fleecing opposing gamers, though. In most competitive keeper and dynasty formats, gamers are too sharp for fleecing. Furthermore, being labeled as a shady gamer as a result of deals that routinely appear sneaky is a good way to raise suspicions of leaguemates and make dealing much harder in future negotiations.
The top example of shady dealings that comes to mind is trading injured players shortly after their injury is announced. This is more often an in-season move than an offseason happening, but trying to take advantage of a leaguemate missing out on injury news is a good way to ruffle the feathers of all of your leaguemates or get kicked out of a league altogether. Yes, the other party involved should have done their due diligence before accepting an injured player in this hypothetical deal, but it’s a bad look nonetheless. Instead, the attention of gamers in the offseason should be on gaining small advantages by being ahead of things.
One helpful page to bookmark is MLB’s events calendar page, which can be found here. The events calendar, at the time of writing, doesn’t show dates past August, but the page will be updated to include them. Dates of note in the offseason that will eventually be included on that landing page include the date when players have to accept or reject qualifying offers, non-tender deadline, winter meetings, and the Rule 5 Draft, among others. Among the players who rejected a qualifying offer this year were Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel. Both players were unable to land a long-term deal to their liking before the season, and each ultimately waited until after the MLB Amateur Draft to sign with the Braves and Cubs, respectively.
After the MLB Amateur Draft, teams were no longer required to forfeit draft compensation for signing a player who declined a qualifying offer. Could this be a regular issue for non-superstars? That remains to be seen and will need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Having said that, gamers in win-now mode with a similarly talented player who declines a qualifying offer might want to begin shopping them in earnest as soon as possible to avoid getting stuck taking pennies on the dollar or holding for a prolonged absence. While it’s a minor consideration, it’s one of the possible small edges to be gained by being open for business during the offseason.
The biggest edge to be gained is through speculating on players rumored to be traded or signing into a more favorable situation. For a hitter, the more favorable situation could include being dealt from a pitcher-friendly home park to hitter-friendly digs. It could also include being dealt to a deeper, more talented lineup that provides more potential for runs and RBIs. Dealing for them in fantasy leagues prior to finding their new home could provide you a discount — perhaps steep, or perhaps modest, but a discount nonetheless.
Conversely, getting ahead of a player being dealt into an unfavorable new situation can be helpful as well. If a closer is rumored to be on the trade block and has the potential to land in a setup (i.e. non-closing) gig elsewhere, for example, it would behoove a gamer to deal them before that happens.
In deeper leagues, gamers should stay aware of happenings with nearly big-league ready minor-leaguers. The cream of the crop prospects are extremely valuable year round, regardless of the depth chart ahead of them. Fringe prospects, on the other hand, could be a sneaky source of value either as free agent additions (in leagues that allow adds/drops year round where they’re on the wire) or as throw-in pieces in deals with leaguemates. Getting a player who has a clearer path to regular playing time can be especially helpful for win-now teams in only-league formats or deeper mixers. Gamers who are rebuilding shouldn’t overlook the value of acquiring these players on the cheap and flipping them for a small profit during the year, too.
As I stated in the intro, some gamers will take a relaxed approach to the offseason. Making moves with them sometimes requires patience and extra prodding. Getting a dialogue going early can lead to making later moves. Also, there’s nothing wrong with taking a breather from day-to-day MLB happenings in the offseason.
Although, if you’re approached by a leaguemate about dealing, be sure to avoid making a deal without checking on all news for the players involved. Don’t foolishly rush into a deal without taking the time to do your own research and evaluate the players involved in the context of the upcoming season. Sometimes the best moves made are the ones that aren’t made, so don’t just make deals for the sake of making them.